Erik Morales has fought many of the best fighters in the lighter weights of boxing, but this coming Saturday he may be facing the biggest fight of his professional career. Epic battles with nemesis Marco Antonio Barrera aside, if Morales loses this weekend against Philippine buzz saw Manny Pacquiao, his career will take a major hit. And the man they call “El Terrible” knows it.

Despite being just 28 years of age, it seems that Morales has been fighting forever, and the reality is that he has. A 12-year professional career that started back in 1993 at super bantamweight when Erik was 16 years old has produced a stellar 47-2-0 record with 34 victories coming the short route. Morales has rarely, if ever, been in a boring fight, but the ring wars brought on by that hard punching, exciting, tough Mexican style have taken their toll on both body and soul. The three wars with Barrera are the most notable battles he has waged, but there have been so many more.

The resume of “El Terrible” shows victories over top competitors such as Wayne McCullough, Marco Antonio Barrera, Guty Espadas, Injin Chi, Paulie Ayala, Jesus Chavez and Carlos “El Famoso” Fernandez. All were decision victories and each was difficult in its own right, taking a little something from Morales and leaving him with a bit less in the tank for next time. After a third battle with Barrera in his last fight, one has to wonder how much Morales will have left against Pacquiao, a fight in which everything he has may still not be enough.

While Erik Morales has always struggled making weight and often looks frail and fragile at weigh-ins, he is not alone in that struggle. Now fighting at the 130 pound junior lightweight limit and perhaps nearing the end of a great career, Morales has everything to lose come Saturday in Las Vegas. The HBO-PPV card also features title bouts pitting Martin Castillo against Eric Morel for the WBA 115 pound bragging rights and Jorge Arce versus Hussein Hussein for the right to call themselves the interim WBC 112 pound ruler. The Morales-Pacquiao headliner however, is worth the price of admission on its own. The bout continues a recent trend of the best fighters meeting each other regardless of whether titles are at stake or not. The desire to fight the best fuels both men to make great fights, not the vacant IBA super featherweight championship belt that will be handed to the winner.

Not long ago (back in mid-2003) Manny Pacquiao (39-2-2, 31 knockouts) was cutting down to fit into the 122 pound super bantamweight limit where he had ruled for four years. One year later it was the featherweights he went after, and now, after just one year fighting the best 126 pound fighters, he jumps again. This time Pacquiao will scale 130 pounds where Erik Morales has been waging war since 2003.

Morales knows that Pacquiao brings an offense that is best described as “controlled commotion” and that he has shocked fellow Mexicans Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez with his speed and power. Barrera was knocked down twice by PacMan in Pacquiao’s TKO 11 win in November of 2003 and Marquez was subsequently dropped three times in the opening round as the two fought to a draw the following year. After watching what happened to Marco Antonio Barrera, surely Marquez did everything he could to prepare himself for the fast heavy hands of the Philippine southpaw. Still, shortly after the bell rang to start the fight, one of the best featherweights in the world (Marquez) was dropped, then again, and again. Marquez knew what he was up against when he faced Pacquiao and still all the preparation was not enough. The task now falls to Morales to defend the Mexican honor against the seemingly unstoppable Pacquiao.

The stat books suggest that Erik Morales will have a slight edge in height over Pacquiao, but having seen the two side by side, the difference is negligible, or less. Hand speed will favor Pacquiao and he may hold a slight edge in power, because in boxing speed often translates to power. In terms of being the more skilled boxer it is tough to say as Morales has shown he can work well behind his jab but doesn’t use it as often as he could. An interesting factor in this fight could be Manny’s chin. While he withstood the best that Barrera and Marquez could throw at him, he has lost twice in his career by knockout and has been knocked down on three other occasions. Could it be that a heavier, harder hitting Morales has what it takes to stop boxing’s version of the Energizer Bunny? At some point the moves up in weight may catch up with Pacquiao. Morales must be hoping that it happens now at 130 pounds.

Unfortunately for Erik “El Terrible” Morales, his entire professional career and all of his achievements may rest in the balance of his bout on Saturday with Manny Pacquiao. Having twice tasted defeat at the hands of rival Marco Antonio Barrera as money and titles were put aside for pride and bragging rights he is behind to Barrera two defeats to one victory. By beating the man who stopped Barrera and the fighter who many feel is the hottest boxer in the world today Morales can put the polish back on a career that has lost a touch of its luster.

Erik Morales is aware of the task at hand. Saturday we will see if has enough left to execute.